Green coriander is a delicacy that only cilantro-growing gardeners get to enjoy since it’s not available in grocery stores. In this article, you’ll find out how to harvest and use it in the kitchen, including some of our favorite green coriander recipes!
What’s the difference between cilantro and coriander?
First, let’s get this bit of confusion out of the way…
- Cilantro typically refers to the edible leaves of the coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum).
- Coriander typically refers to the edible, mature dried seeds of the coriander plant.
Sometimes, the two names are used interchangeably, which creates confusion.
Also, if you’re among the small percentage of people whose genetic disposition causes you to hate the flavor of cilantro, we’re truly sorry for your loss. Life isn’t fair, but hopefully you’ve won the lottery, have a photographic memory, and live to be 200 years old to compensate. (Actually, living for two centuries without being able to eat coriander plants might be a curse.)
Gardener’s delight – enjoying all the edible parts of the coriander plant
One of the joys of growing food is getting to know plants at every stage of their life cycle. In the case of cilantro, that joy is increased by the fact that cilantro yields unique edible parts all along the way:
1. Coriander Roots
The roots of coriander plants are edible and packed with unique cilantro flavor. They’re best harvested when tender and young.
However, eating coriander roots requires pulling up the whole plant, which means you don’t get to enjoy its other edible parts later. Boo.
2. Leaves – in all stages
Heterophylly is a biology term which means that a plant develops different leaf forms depending on environmental conditions or life cycle stage. In the case of coriander plants, there are three distinct leaf shapes that become evident as the weather warms and/or the plants begin to develop stalks and flowers:
- basal leaves (these develop first and are typically sold by the bundle under the name “cilantro” in grocery stores);
- middle-stem leaves;
- upper-stem leaves.
The higher up the plants’ stem cilantro leaves grow during stalk and flower development, the more delicate, frilly, and pinnate the leaves are. These upper leaves taste almost identical to the basal leaves, they’re just smaller and less profuse.
3. Coriander flowers/umbels
The delicate white flower clusters (umbels) of the coriander plant are also edible. They have a similar taste to cilantro leaves, albeit milder. Coriander umbels make a gorgeous garnish.
Coriander flowers/umbels look almost identical to certain other common garden plants you’re probably familiar with — carrots, parsnips, parsley —because they’re in the same plant family, Apiaceae.
4. Green coriander, aka coriander berries
Green coriander is the unripe/immature green-colored seeds of the coriander plant. We also call them coriander “berries” due to their incredible flavor, even though they’re not actual berries, botanically speaking.
What does green coriander taste like?
Green coriander has a unique, almost fruity-citrusy taste alongside the well-known flavor of cilantro leaves.
In our opinion, green coriander is the culinary star of the plant. And since you have to grow coriander plants to get green coriander, this is yet another enticement to start gardening!
We’ll detail how to use green coriander and also share some of our favorite recipes further below in this article.
5. Mature coriander seeds
Once coriander seeds have matured and turned brown, the coriander plant has reached the end of its life cycle and will soon die. These dried seeds are the coriander you can buy in the spice section at grocery stores.
You can also save mature seeds from your healthiest coriander plants to grow future plants, which will then become better adapted to your unique growing conditions.
How to grow, harvest, and use green coriander
Green coriander growing tips
In our Zone 7b garden, we plant coriander in the fall. It easily overwinters in-ground; in fact, we’ve had it survive uncovered down into the single digits.
As daytime temperatures start going above 70°F in the spring, coriander plants begin developing flower/seed stalks. Thus, May-June are prime green coriander seed season for us.
However, you can also produce green coriander in the summer even in warmer climates. Coriander seeds germinate between 65–70°F (18–21°C). Because the soil in your summer garden will be too hot for the seeds to germinate outdoors, you’ll need to start your seeds indoors.
Transplant them 4-6 weeks after germination into the coolest microclimates in your summer garden. Even then, they’ll go to bolt much faster than overwintering or early spring-sown plants due to the hotter temperatures. So you’ll be back in green coriander before you know it, even if you get far fewer green coriander seeds per plant in the summer.
First, be sure to harvest green coriander at the ideal stage of development a few weeks AFTER the seeds have set. When ready to harvest, green coriander should be:
- about the size of bb pellets,
- bright green (no hints of brown),
- relatively easy to squish with your fingers, and
- juicy inside.
At room temperature, green coriander will only maintain ideal consistency for about a day. However, if you store it in an airtight container in your fridge, it will last for a couple weeks.
How to use green coriander in the kitchen
Green coriander is an intense flavoring so you don’t need much of it to flavor a dish. It’s wonderful raw or cooked, but we personally prefer it raw since the flavor seems just a little brighter that way.
We also recommend grinding green coriander in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of large flake salt BEFORE adding it to a dish, rather than putting the seeds in whole. Otherwise, the flavor won’t be as evenly distributed throughout the dish. (The salt helps grind the seeds while releasing the liquid inside.)
Here are five great ways to use green coriander:
- Crushed and added to salsa (see our serviceberry salsa with green coriander recipe).
- Pickled as-is or added as a flavoring to pickle recipes.
- Added as a flavoring to lacto-fermentation recipes. (Add a tablespoon of crushed green coriander to any of our lacto-fermented fruit recipes for a flavor explosion.)
- Made into rubs for white meats.
- Muddled and added to drinks. (We made a heirloom tomato-green coriander shrub a few years back that was amazing.)
Green coriander health benefits
In addition to contributing incredible flavors to foods and beverages, green coriander (and other parts of the plant) have proven medicinal benefits.
A 2023 review summarized the plant’s medicinal benefits as follows: “Coriander is recognized for its anti-diabetic, radical scavenging, antimicrobial, anti-depressive, and anti-tumor activity, and analgesic and hormone modulating properties, which pose health benefits associated with its usage.”
An earlier 2016 review published in the journal Nutrition Today found a similarly large range of health/medicinal benefits of cilantro and coriander, namely its “antioxidant, antimicrobial, diabetes-modulating, and neurological benefits.”
Recipe: Green coriander and toasted pine nut paste
The first green coriander seed recipe you should make is green coriander and toasted pine nut paste. Why?
- It’s very easy to make.
- The flavor is extraordinary.
- It’s quite versatile — you can use it like pesto on pasta, spread it on a sandwich, eat it by the spoonful, or put it on a charcuterie board next to your favorite crackers.
Green coriander and toasted pine nut paste
A delicious, simple, and versatile paste or spread that shows off the unique flavor of green coriander!
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1 tbsp green coriander seeds
- 1 tsp organic extra virgin olive oil *Optional, but adds a nice creaminess and helps ingredients blend smoothly.
- pinch of large-flake salt (or to taste)
In small pan, toast pine nuts over medium heat until slightly browned. You'll want to stir and flip them with a spatula every minute or so until evenly toasted. Remove nuts from pan and let cool to room temperature.
Grind green coriander and salt in mortar and pestle. Then use flexible spatula to scrape out coriander into blender. (A small blender is ideal if using the posted recipe quantities.) Add olive oil and blend until smooth. You'll probably need to scrape sides or blender, then re-blend the ingredients multiple times before they're blended smooth.
Alternately, you could make the entire recipe in a large mortar and pestle.
Transfer to serving dish to eat immediately. Or store in covered container in fridge for up to two weeks. We've found that this dish actually gets creamier and more complex after sitting in the fridge for 1+ week, but it's absolutely delicious no matter when you serve it.
Green coriander paste is very versatile. You can use it as a spread, a dip, on a charcuterie plate, or like pesto on pasta.
Now you know what green coriander is and how to use it in the kitchen. We hope you enjoy this seasonal delicacy as much as we do!
Spice up your day with these related articles:
- Recipe: Serviceberry salsa with green coriander
- Recipe: Beefsteak mushroom tartare over toasted pine nut-coriander crumble
- Recipe: Wood ear mushroom & asparagus salad with cilantro-citrus miso dressing